Reviewed by John Terino (School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, AL)
Published on H-War (March, 2005)
An Inadequate Look at Weapons in Space
It is no secret that the Bush administration has vigorously pursued missile defense, while simultaneously upsetting some of the basic tenets that have governed space as a realm of military action for over thirty years. With all these changes in policy and action, a good book that analyzes the roots of American space policy and discusses the implications of militarizing and weaponizing space would be valuable. On the surface, a book with the title The Militarization and Weaponization of Space would seem to be both timely and informative regarding current events. Unfortunately, Matthew Mowthorpe fails to deliver up-to-date information, nuanced logic, or even provocative insights to the debates surrounding changes in the role of space for the military or in international relations.
Mowthorpe's text is filled with acronyms and jargon. Backed by a decent index or a glossary, this would not be a problem. However, most of the terms in the text are not found in the woefully inadequate two pages devoted to the index. Readers not well versed in the subject matter will often find themselves confused about the subject under discussion in many parts of the work. Those knowledgeable regarding space policy, space history, and the military uses of space need not read this book, since there are no new insights and because the book has little or no information regarding events after 2001. There is a small section devoted to events in Afghanistan, but even that section concentrates on communications and weather systems instead of more direct military applications of space. There are no maps or illustrations to elucidate any topics referenced in the text, although there are a few charts that list Russian satellites, Chinese satellites, and some aspects of space based laser components.
The book provides a pedestrian overview of the four schools of thought governing the military use of space: sanctuary, survival, space control, and high ground. In individual chapters devoted to the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, and China, Mowthorpe discusses the history of space policy in each nation. He also devotes chapters to the development of ballistic missile defense, anti-satellite programs, and the role of space in the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). In tortured and repetitive prose, Mowthorpe steps readers through the chronological evolution of space thought, policy, and implementation from the early Cold War through the start of the twenty-first century. A pertinent example of his logic and prose can be found in the following paragraph that appears on both page 181 and page 219:
"One effect the RMA could have given the central importance of military space systems to the RMA is that it could make space a battlefield. As other countries, such as Russia and China see the effects of the RMA and its devastating effects it has on the battlefield, this may lead them to target the space systems themselves. The reliance on space systems to promote the RMA could lead to space becoming a battlefield."
Regrettably, this work is not interesting, innovative, or provocative. This is most unfortunate because the subject of militarizing and weaponizing space deserves a thorough and engaging book accessible to all interested parties. This book, however, is not it.
. Readers interested in this subject would be better served by consulting other works. The relatively new journal, Astropolitics, available in hard copy and online at http://www.astropolitics.org, contains several useful articles, notably Karl Mueller's "Totem and Taboo: Depolarizing the Space Weaponization Debate." in volume 1 (2003). Another excellent article on space weaponization by Bruce M. DeBlois, and others, is entitled "Space Weapons: Crossing the U.S. Rubicon" and can be found in the journal International Security, 29 (Fall, 2004). Both William Burrow's This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age (New York: Random House, 1999) and Walter McDougall's The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (New York: Basic Books, 1985) are more informative works regarding the history of space policy. Finally, Steven J. Lambakis's work, On the Edge of Earth: The Future of American Space Power (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2001), is better regarding the future of space power.
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John Terino. Review of Mowthorpe, Matthew, The Militarization and Weaponization of Space.
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